picture of a white police officer in a bright green vest that says "police" on the back standing in front of a metal barricade, facing away from the camera. Behind him is the Silent Sam statue at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus

Why do the cops keep protecting white supremacists?

This past weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, dozens of police assaulted and arrested community members holding an anti-racist canned food drive and potluck on the campus of the University of North Carolina.

The community potluck was a response to the wave of right-wing backlash since a racist Jim Crow-era confederate statue on the campus was finally toppled three weeks ago. In response, white supremacists have gathered at the pedestal of the former “Silent Sam” statue with heavy police protection – while police have pepper-sprayed, beaten and arrested UNC students and community who came out to oppose them.

Police providing special protection to Nazis, the KKK, and other right-wing groups is far from a new trend. But the pattern feels especially stark this summer given the way police have responded to a series of rallies meant to continue the racist terror spree of Charlottesville. At a Portland alt-right rally in August, police attacked anti-fascist protesters with flash grenades, giving one protestor third-degree chemical burns and nearly killing another. At the main Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C., police provided an escort and private train to a group that included Charlottesville architect and “white civil rights activist” Jason Kessler.

I saw this firsthand at a rally hosted by Nazi front group Resist Marxism in Boston last month. Police were laughing and palling around with Nazis while they shoved and harassed anti-fascist protesters. Boston police provided a barricade of protection and private escort to the train station for the white supremacists once it became clear that the hundreds of us counterprotesting were not going away.

“Cops and Klan go hand in hand” is more than just a protest chant. U.S. police departments have assisted white supremacists in doxxing leftist activists and arrested the people of color that Nazis and KKK members attack. Whether or not individual cops are members of white supremacist groups (although there are many who are), the institution of police serves the same  goal: protect white property and white power by violently suppressing and controlling black people. The police’s job is to crush protests using the full might of the state to assault, imprison, and murder—and they do so based not on whether protests are peaceful or legal, but on how threatening the state finds them.

The violent police response to the anti-racist activism in Charlotte is evidence that the police’s allegiance is first and foremost to white supremacy. As UNC activist Maya Little said, “The symbols we put in our public square reflects what happens on the ground. They reflect our law, our politics and our culture.”

Like the statues they protect, the police are a symbol and a tool of a white supremacist society.

Image credit: Jonathan Drake via The San Diego Union-Tribune

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. At Feministing, Jess writes about the intersection of state and interpersonal violence, LGBTQ communities and radical activism. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

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